The Costume Institute's 2020 exhibition traces a century and a half of fashion—from 1870 to the present—along a disruptive timeline, on the occasion of The Met's 150th anniversary. Employing Henri Bergson's concept of la durée (duration), it explores how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future. Virginia Woolf serves as the "ghost narrator" of the exhibition.
The timeline unfolds in two adjacent galleries fabricated as enormous clock faces and organized around the principle of 60 minutes of fashion. Each "minute" features a pair of garments, with the primary work representing the linear nature of fashion and the secondary work its cyclical character. To illustrate Bergson’s concept of duration—of the past co-existing with the present—the works in each pair are connected through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s is paired with an Alexander McQueen "Bumster" skirt from 1995. A black silk satin dress with enormous leg-o’-mutton sleeves from the mid-1890s is juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons deconstructed ensemble from 2004.
All of the garments are black to emphasize changes in silhouette, except at the conclusion of the show, where a white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection, made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design, serves as a symbol for the future of fashion with its emphasis on community, collaboration, and sustainability.
Accompanied by a catalogue.
Join Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, on a guided tour of About Time: Fashion and Duration.
The exhibition is made possible by
Corporate sponsorship is also provided by
Additional support is provided by Michael Braun, John and Amy Griffin, Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers, the Natasha and Adar Poonawalla Foundation, and the Laura and Raymond Johnson Fund.
"...Andrew Bolton could not have designed a better show for this strange, complicated moment...dimensions are soothing...safety protocols, rather than diminishing the experience, actually enhance it." —New York Times
"...an ingenious exploration of time as told through women’s clothing....The delight in finding surprising new affinities, is extremely pleasurable...an exhibition that teaches one to see. It also, wordlessly, makes an indelible case for fashion as a subject of serious study." —Wall Street Journal
"Now Is the Time to See the Costume Institute’s New Exhibition Design…it really does feel about time that museum visitors have the opportunity to be carried away by beautifully constructed and intellectually stimulating clothes." —Architectural Digest
"...the stark, backlit beauty of this Hall of Mirrors is hauntingly fitting...Its approach to past, present, and future is eerily on the nose."—Interview
"The exhibition offers a fractured timeline of sartorial history that fits in perfectly with the topsy-turvy world of 2020. And the presentation fits in with the...melange of history, literature, pop culture, and—of course—clothes, which are as swoon-inducing as ever." —Artnet News
Sunday at the Met: Exhibition Design
Learn about the exhibition design of About Time in this conversation featuring Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, and Es Devlin, Exhibition Designer. Moderated by Asad Syrkett, Editor in Chief, Elle Decor.
Read a "Now at The Met" interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham about his short story, "Out of Time."
Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984). Dress, fall/winter 2012–13 haute couture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Iris van Herpen, in honor of Harold Koda, 2016 (2016.185). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1951. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coulson, 1964 (2009.300.1311). Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope